The Creole People of Sierra Leone
By Abdul Suhood,
Throughout our short history, some of the most eminent Sierra Leoneans have been Creoles. Creole culture is possibly the most influential of any one group in the country. Our capital is named Freetown because of Creoles, reflecting pride in their identity, and humanity. The words to our national anthem were written by a Creole, Clifford Nelson Fyle.
Do, please do. Closely read the words to the national anthem, all three verses, absorb the sincerity, trauma, struggle, resistance, defiance, experience and above all, hope, that produced such poetry.
Basically the (hi)story of the formation of modern Sierra Leone is a tape of Creole excellence and contributions. Starting from the brilliant language they created, Krio, and its supreme role in weaving a national identity. To producing world-renowned scientists, Pan-Africanists, educators, clergy, academics, lawyers, trade-unionists, politicians, journalists, and so on. The intellectual catalysts of the modern Sierra Leonean state.
Most Creoles wouldn’t write or mention these things. They are probably too mature for such gloating arrogance.
Shamefully, like a most uncivilised society, there is a social media discussion on the merits of a law excluding Creoles from owning land in the provinces of Sierra Leone.
The meaning of the word itself, ‘Law’, that highest achievement in human civilisation, is nullified when bent to degrade the freedom of another human, in any age. But this is the case in 21st century Sierra Leone. Regrettably, the utter contempt, base tribalism that has sustained such a law is consistent with the lack of imagination in our politics since Independence.
1. Where are the Creole agitators from the professions of law, medicine, politics, business, journalism, etc., calling out such disgraceful tribalism?
This is on them too. They have coopted themselves to lazy politics, legal malfeasance and more. Since Independence, few, or no legal documents have been written without Creole input, supervision or authorship. But they are still confined to second-class citizenship.
2. (a) In the real sense of the term, do we have a Parliament? What do they do, apart from rubber-stamp executive incompetence? (b) Why is Nasser Ayoub still not a citizen? (c) On what basis can it remain a sustainable political position to exclude maybe, 200,000 Creoles, out of a population of nearly eight million, from owning land in the provinces?
All summer, Sierra Leoneans have been posting Black Lives Matter literature in solidarity with the killing by police of an American man, George Floyd. To a point where it inspired a local movement, Makeni Lives Matter. But all the while, knowingly accept that a person of Lebanese-ancestry born in Sierra Leone, cannot be a citizen because they are not Black. Hypocrisy.
What possible danger, posed to the cultural make-up of rural-Sierra Leone, requires shutting Creoles from owning land, if not to cast them as everlasting aliens, internal Others, in their own country?
It’s almost like someone was hoping to kick them out at later date unless they crack some code to a mythical identity. Yet the ‘Contris’, standard bearers of pure-citizenship, created and carried out a catastrophic ten year war that destroyed lives and property; wiped-out little progress there was. Not the Creoles, who are still there, bore the consequences like everybody else. Where would they go to?
Amongst the first civil rights leaders of America was a guy named Thomas Peters. Peters and his African brothers and sisters chose to be Sierra Leonean, rather than remain American in eternal fear of recapture and re-enslavement.
The slogan, ‘Black Lives Matter’ might be new. But its struggle is a continuum of what Thomas Peters, and others started, some two and half centuries ago. So proud of their Blackness, and Africanness, they rebelled against then America, fought alongside the British for one thing only: the dignity of returning to Africa, specifically to Freetown, Sierra Leone, as free people. Those gallant people who fought with, and were led by Thomas Peters, are part of what is the Creoles of Sierra Leone today.
Nearly 250 years later, there is a law that disqualifies them from owning land outside Freetown, in the free country their ancestors preferred, dreamt of, and help create.
If there is a flicker of consciousness in the dead, Thomas Peters will be too embarrassed to look those who enslaved him in the eye. For Sierra Leone, his fellow Africans, are letting him and his courageous colleagues down.
He will be even more ashamed, that the guy who currently carries the title of Chief Justice of Sierra Leone, has a Creole name!